HL Deb 04 March 1912 vol 11 cc286-8

My Lords, I rise to ask his Majesty's Government, in view of the generally expressed desire in commercial circles in. Ireland in favour of the extension of Greenwich time to Ireland, whether any action is proposed to be taken. I will first give my reasons for saying that it is generally desired that a uniform time—namely, Greenwich time—should be adopted throughout the United Kingdom, and will begin by quoting the views of two Cabinet Ministers on the subject. The Postmaster-General, on November 7 last, wrote— I find that the change would be of some advantage as far as Post Office arrangements are concerned, provided it was made general throughout Ireland. And last year the Chief Secretary for Ireland said in the House of Commons— Personally he was in favour of the proposed change, but it could not be effected without legislation, which the Government could not undertake unless it was non-contentious. He stated that he had received twenty-five petitions from Ireland in favour of uniform time, and none against.

This question has received considerable attention throughout Ireland and the proposal has met with support wherever it has been raised. The Association of Chambers of Commerce of the United Kingdom have passed a resolution in favour of it. The Chambers of Commerce of Dublin, Belfast, and Londonderry have also done so, and all the big carrying com- panies have expressed themselves in favour of it. Nowadays transit between this country and Ireland is so frequent and has increased so much in speed that the two countries are now so close together that the difference in time is a matter of great inconvenience. Again, those of us who are engaged in business with Ireland communicate almost daily by telephone and telegraph, and if one is not careful inconvenient questions are apt to arise through blunders being made owing to the difference in time. Therefore commercially we all earnestly desire that the Government should see their way to deal with this question, so that a uniform time may be arrived at.


My Lords, the facts are as the noble Lord has stated. Greenwich time prevails throughout almost every country in Western Europe, and there has been a movement for some years to have Greenwich time adopted in Ireland. Under the Act of 1880 Greenwich time is the standard time in Great Britain, and Dublin time is the standard time in Ireland. So far as the Irish Government are concerned, the question was first raised in 1898, when a communication was addressed to them by the Scottish Geographical Society. The Royal Astronomer in Ireland was asked to report, and he reported strongly in its favour. He pointed out that the difference between Greenwich time and local time in Ireland varied from 22 to 42 minutes. He did not think that even the 42 minutes would be excessive, in view of the fact that a greater difference of time prevailed in Austria and Sweden without raising inconveniences; and there is, of course, the further point that it is the eastern point of Ireland which is far more important from a commercial point of view and there the difference is least. It is also true that various Chambers of Commerce have petitioned for the adoption of Greenwich time—those of Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Limerick, and Waterford; and last year the Association of Chambers of Commerce, which met under the presidency of Lord Brassey in Dublin, petitioned in favour of this proposal. It has also met with the support of local authorities and railway companies in Ireland.

There is a good deal to be said in favour of the proposed change. Uniformity is one of the considerations of the moment. Another result would be something in the direction of daylight saving. It is computed that nearly 100 hours would be gained in Ireland. Of those hours a very large proportion would be available for recreation by those classes who leave work at, say, six o'clock. There is also, of course, the argument of economy. In view of those facts the Chief Secretary said in another place on October 26, in answer to a Question addressed to him, that he personally was in favour of the change. I may say that a Statute would be necessary, because the Act of 1880 would have to be repealed. The Chief Secretary added that if it could be regarded as a non-contentious matter he personally would have no objection whatever, and would be glad enough to see it adopted; but he pointed out that, in the then state of affairs in the House of Commons, he could not see his way to be responsible for a contentious measure. The position remains unchanged in that respect. Might I suggest to the noble Lord that this matter might well form the subject of a Private Bill? If the noble Lord is sufficiently interested, there would be nothing to prevent him introducing a Bill dealing with this subject. He would then be able to see what support it got in this House and in another place, and even if he was not successful this year it might possibly lead to the achievement of his object in the future.


I desire to thank the noble Lord for his encouraging answer, and I will consider the suggestion which he has thrown out.